Caravan Chronicles: A spectacular view of the Taj Mahal, and a return to big city life in Delhi
Ankita Kumar and Rohith Subramaniam, the duo that makes up Droom Caravan Chronicles, sent us dispatches from their 100-day road trip across India, in a caravan rebuilt from a ‘90s Matador | #FTravellers
Editor’s note: You may have heard the saying ‘the journey is the destination’, but some travellers actually put that philosophy into practice. Presenting, #FTravellers — on-the-road (or air/sea) dispatches from travel enthusiasts on long journeys.
The first travellers we have on board are Ankita Kumar and Rohith Subramaniam, the duo that makes up Droom Caravan Chronicles. They’re on a 100-day journey across India (with 30 halt locations), in a caravan rebuilt from a ‘90s Matador.
100 days | 30 locations | 3 travellers | 1 caravan.
This is post 6 from Droom Caravan Chronicles.
If you missed our first post on Firstpost, where we explained all about who we are and how we got onto an epic road trip through India in our caravan, here's an introduction — we’re Ankita Kumar and Rohith Subramaniam, travel enthusiasts and the founders of Caravan Chronicles. We’re travelling across India in a caravan that we rebuilt from a '90s Matador, for 100 days.
In this dispatch, we're going to talk to about days 71-90 of our trip. Ready?
Route/milestones: An ancient stepwell-a frustrating detour to Fatehpur Sikhri-we reach Agra-behold the majestic Taj!
After Rajasthan and the crazy heat wave, it was time for us to hit Uttar Pradesh. Ankita hadn’t seen the Taj Mahal, so we added a two-day pit-top at Agra to our itinerary, before we made our way to Delhi.
Before we got there, however, we came across Chand ki Baori, aka Abhaneri Kund. The oldest (and biggest) stepwell in India, its name derives from the fact that on a full moon night, the reflection in the water would make the steps shine brightly. We would have loved to climb all the way down the stairs, but due to accidents in the pursuit of selfies (where people have fallen downstairs), this is no longer allowed. A pity! We did, however, manage to take a few lovely pictures as pigeons flew above the stepwells.
Fortified with a yummy paratha-breakfast from a tiny dhaba on the highway, we made our way to Fatehpur Sikhri, a small detour from Agra. Just a few metres into town and we realised how touristy it was. Flanked by persistent tourist guides who wouldn’t leave us alone, we left Fatehpur Sikri without exploring it — tired, and somewhat irritated.
Reaching Agra quickly changed our mood! We’d planned to get here on a Friday, since most of the city closes down then, and we wanted to get a couple of photos of the Taj sans any tourists. We did get a couple of spectacular shots of the Taj, but were out of luck when it came to taking pictures rom it from the Yamuna as there were no boatmen to take us out on the river. So we satisfied ourselves with taking in the sunset, and an early dinner.
Oh, on our way back to the van, we also happened to see a bunch of young men engaging in kushti. We watched, fascinated. It’s clearly a tough sport, and one that that requires a lot of training.
The next morning, we headed straight to Mehtab Bagh to catch the sunrise. From here, we saw the Taj bathed in the early morning sun; it was stunning. We drove around a bit then, trying to get the perfect shot of our van Kiro and the Taj in one frame. After many failed attempts, we finally did get a good picture of the two wonders of the world!
We also revisited the Yamuna ghat. This time, the boat guys were there, and while the Rs 600 they charged to take us out on the water was a tad on the higher side, it was worth it. Reflected in the still — albeit filthy — waters of the Yamuna, we got our favourite view of the Taj.
Route/milestones: Driving to Delhi in a thunderstorm-joys of being in a big city!-we decide to extend our journey-onwards to Chandigarh and Dalhouise
With the Taj checked off our list, it was time to move on to Delhi. Almost immediately, we were met with heavy showers and a sandstorm, but forged ahead nonetheless. All the way to Delhi, we braved thunderstorms. Kiro almost touched 110 kmph on the Yamuna Expressway, and we were so proud! We reached Delhi at 10 pm.
A really cool hostel chain called Go Stops was hosting us in Daryaganj. They had comfortable AC dorms, a fun common area, and three stray dogs they’d adopted. It had been a long time since our last big city pit-stop in Mumbai, and also since we’d interacted with other travellers. It was fun to meet them and swap travel stories over a meal. These exchanges always make you wonder how similar — yet different — we are as travellers.
Surprisingly, we were happy to be in a big city after so long. There were little, previously-taken-for-granted pleasures like ordering food on Swiggy, taking Uber rides, accessing Amazon Prime, and bingeing on Netflix. We also met friends and chilled out with the folks we met at the hostel. Exploring the city had to be saved for the night as this was the only time we could stand being in the van without being roasted by the Delhi heat. We visited the India Gate, Raj Bhavan and Red fort, ate roadside chaat and sampled tandoori momos.
One of biggest fears while driving around in Kiro in Delhi, was being caught by the cops. Delhi has a rule disallowing vehicles that are over 20-years-old in the city limits, and our little beauty is just a little over that. Luck was on our side though, and we managed to get by without running afoul of the police.
A funny but heartwarming development was people recognizing Kiro while it was parked outside the hostel, and sending us pictures of it! It’s a special feeling when she’s recognised. We’d also been told that Delhi would be a good place to fix some of the van’s glitches, and we found some mechanics in old Delhi who were excited to work on Kiro.
We’d initially planned to end our trip in Delhi, but with the van in good condition and looking for a respite from the heat, we decided to extend our journey. Our new route would take us from Delhi to Dalhousie, via Chandigarh. Riding through the night onwards to Chandigarh, Kiro’s headlights failed, so we had to stop off and find a mechanic who would fix it for us.
Friends were hosting us in Chandigarh, and after we’d had a hearty meal, a night drive through the city acquainted us with its charms. We chatted with our friends about travel and life until almost 3 am. We’d probably have stayed up even longer if we didn’t have to make an early start that morning.
We’re so grateful to all the people who hosted us during this trip. Not just friends, but also strangers who know us only from social media, have showered us with kindness. It made our journey special. This trip may have been about the van, but it also became about the lovely souls we met because of it. On a trip like this, what you miss most is home-cooked food, and at every major stop, our friends ensured we had enough of it.
Next, we set off for Dalhousie. It was time to hit the mountains, get away from the heat, and take in some fresh air.
Stay tuned for more from Droom Caravan Chronicles on #FTravellers.
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